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I fondly recall the Reading Festival in 1975. It was a huge musical event over three days in August. I read in Andy Beckett’s book “When The Light’s Went Out” about how the same week another festival was happening at Watchfield. It was linked to the free festival movement which the previous year had its concert stopped by the police who waded in aggressively. There was a feeling that too heavy a hand had been employed and instead of trying to ban “music & sunshine” the government should themselves sponsor a festival the following year. Watchfield was the result.

It was not much of a success up against Reading’s all star cast. Yet Beckett doesn’t mention Reading in his book which is curious given it was a huge event happening less than 100 miles away. I suppose not being political it didn’t merit acknowledgement. Curious too that the organisers of Watchfield should go for the same weekend as Reading which was surely going to dissipate numbers.

And curious again that I knew little then, for all my counter-culture credentials, of the free movement people with their tilting at windmills agenda. They were trying to bring about what they called the Free Albion State, an alternative society based on a network of independent collectives. The free festivals were part of their expression.

Ubi Dwyer and Sid Rawle were two of the leading figures associated with the movement. I salute their endeavour, particularly Sid, organiser of Watchfield, who died this year. Both men did jail time for their radicalism. Interesting times indeed.

organisers Ubi Dwyer and Sid Rawle both

did jail time for their radicalism



music • 07.09.10